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New drug checking machine now available in Terrace, BC

Northern Health
News Release

To save lives, and help people who use drugs make informed choices, a new Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) drug checking machine is now operational in Terrace.

“BC is using every tool in our toolbox to tackle the ongoing public health emergency and prevent future deaths due to the toxic drug supply,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Drug checking technology has the power to reduce poisoned drug deaths and save lives. I am grateful that this rapid and cost-effective drug-checking machine is coming to Terrace as an additional tool in our response to the drug-poisoning crisis.”

Drug checking is an evidence-informed harm reduction tool that allows people to check what’s in their drugs. Using the FTIR machine, trained Northern Health staff will now be able to do advanced drug checking in the community. The machine can test a range of substances, including opioids, stimulants, and other psychoactive drugs such as MDMA.

“This technology, combined with existing testing strip methods, empowers people who use substances of all kinds to understand more about the constantly changing and increasingly toxic drug supply,” said Clare Hart, NH’s Northwest Director, Specialized Services. “This increased knowledge is a tool with which people who use substances, service providers, and broader communities can develop plans for substance use that are centred in safety and harm reduction philosophy.”

Drug checking services using the FTIR machine will be available four days a week (Mon-Tues, Thurs-Fri) from 8:30 am to 4 pm, at the Terrace Northwest Intensive Case Management Team (ICMT) location at the Stepping Stones Building, 101-4450 Greig Avenue.

How it works

The FTIR analyzes drug samples by shining a light on it and measuring how that light is absorbed. The analysis can tell what is in the sample, including what the primary components of the substance are and also if there are any adulterants. The technician may also be able to provide an estimate of concentration levels of a substance.

Once the analysis is complete, results are provided to the client along with related harm reduction information to help them develop a safety plan to help prevent overdose. Sample analysis can also improve the timeliness and accuracy of toxic drug alerts issued to communities, to create broader awareness around specific substances that are flagged.

For more information on drug checking, see drug checking bc. See more information and resources on overdose prevention in the Northern Health region.